Jun 27 2024 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆      Still hopelessly devoted

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 25 – Sat 29 June 2024
Review by Martin Gray.

Grease is the word once more at Edinburgh Playhouse this week and there’s no better way to fill those summer nights.

From the opening end of the affair for Sandy and Danny to the close when the ‘poor man’s Sandra Dee’ dons THOSE leggings, this latest touring production sizzles with goodness.

Lewis Day, Kieran Lynch, Sario Solomon and George Michaelides in Grease. Pic: Marc Brenner

There is a bonus for Edinburgh audiences in that the show stars three of our own in leading roles – who needs a Hollyoaks or Strictly veteran or (bless him) Peter Andre when there’s local talent to be cheered on.

Talent being the operative word as Rebecca Stenhouse, Kieran Lynch – both MGA graduates – and Adam Davidson sing, dance and act their socks off in a production that has the audience on its collective feet.

emotional heart

Lynch plays Doody, one of Danny Zuko’s pals, who sings Those Magic Changes; one of those songs we tend to forget is in the show and then rather enjoy. Davidson is Johnny Casino, who gives us Shakin’ at the High School Hop at the prom where the fun dance contest is held. And Stenhouse plays Rizzo, the emotional heart of the show – Sandy and Danny Who? – leading Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee and breaking hearts with There Are Worse Things I Could Do.

All three players do Edinburgh proud and hopefully we’ll see lots more of them on city stages in years to come.

Emerald B, Alicia Belgarde and Rebecca Stenhouse in Grease. Pic: Marc Brenner

As the couple at the heart of the show, Hope Dawe and Ben Middleton – stepping up from the Ensemble for Press Night – do a terrific job as Sandy Dumbrowski and Danny Zuko with those big numbers, Summer Nights, Sandy and Hopelessly Devoted to You that demand good vocal instruments and commitment.

It’s harder for them to convince as a couple given how underwritten their stage time together is courtesy of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, the men behind the book and most of the music and lyrics. They do a good job with what they’re given, and probably few care, it’s all about the song and dance.


And there’s little to complain about there, with the large cast fizzing with energy in the likes of We Go Together, Grease is the Word and the appropriately camp Beauty School Dropout. Greased Lightnin’, led by George Michaelide’s sinewy Kinickie, is a knockout vocally and dance-wise – the choreography is by Arlene Phillips – but the legendary car is a bit of a letdown, its transformation amounting to a few strip lights. Back to the garage, lads…

The cast of Grease. Pic: Marc Brenner

Born To Hand Jive, sung by DJ Vince Fontaine – who witters away pointlessly above the stage for much of the show – is fun, if a little loud as rendered by Joe Gash, and Nikolai Foster’s production denies us the marvellous moment when the cast sit at the front of the stage, legs dangling, and dazzle us with a group hand jive. The volume could also have been turned down a tad in those ballads, Hopelessly Devoted To You and There Are Worse Things I Could Do, both of which immediately went big when they should have built.

Joe Gash, as is traditional, doubles up as the Teen Angel, coming down from a very camp heaven to taunt Beauty School Dropout Frenchy, the hugely charismatic Alicia Belgarde. It’s a clever number, nicely done here – Frenchy slapping the Teen Angel as he gets particularly insulting is a clever addition.

less well-known numbers

Surprisingly, it is the less well-known numbers that are most enjoyable, the aforementioned Those Magic Changes, Freddy My Love and, most of all, Mooning – given a fabulous vocal performance by Lewis Day as Roger.

Actually, make that ‘less well-known numbers I know from the classic film soundtrack album’ – there’s one tune in here, Tattoo Song, that’s very nothingy, part of the Burger Palace Boys’ (as opposed to the more familiar T-Birds) gang fight subplot that weaves in and out to dull effect. Apparently the song is from the earliest Seventies production and has been little heard since… or maybe we keep forgetting it. And then there’s a newish addition for Danny, How Big I’m Gonna Be, which adds nothing.

The cast of Grease Pic: Marc Brenner.

Making a big impression in smaller parts are Emerald B as Jan, India Chadwick as Marty, Phoebe Roberts as Patty, Deena Kapadia as Cha Cha and Dominique Planter as the magisterial Miss Lynch. As for the rest of the ensemble, there’s not a weak link in the show, with battery levels still at 100% by the time we got to the post-finale Megamix.

As for the live playing, Charlie Ingles helms a cracking band, making the classic tunes sound just as they should, and helping the cast pace their performances on Colin Richmond’s adaptable set. Ben Cracknell’s lighting design is a tad dark – I think director Foster is going for an edgier take than the usual Grease – and there’s far too much stage fog to get us choking. Plus, Vince Fontaine’s floating bubble home is annoyingly distracting, like a giant fish-eye mirror in a charity shop.

Still, the song and dance is first rate, and I doubt all the Pink Ladies who showed up cared one whit. Invulnerable to creative tweaks, Grease is the last word in audience pleasing fun.

Running time: Two and a half hours (including one interval)
Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Tue 25 – Sat 29 June 2024.
Evenings: 7.30pm; Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

The cast of Grease. Pic: Marc Brenner.


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